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Recalled Rental Car Law Now in Effect

After a long legislative battle, federal law now requires that rental car agencies repair any and all open safety defects before renting out vehicles to customers. Given that there were 900 recalls involving 51 million vehicles last year, the new law is essential to keeping car renters safe.

“When a family picks up a rental car on vacation, they should be able to expect it is free of any known safety defect,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “I thank Congress and the safety advocates who helped turn this common-sense idea into law.”

The federal law, which was enacted as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, applies to any company or dealer with fleets greater than 35 vehicles and bans them from renting unrepaired recalled vehicles. It also expands NHTSA’s recall authority to cover rental car companies, allowing the agency to investigate and punish violators.

As we have previously discussed on this San Diego Injury Blog, legislation was first proposed in the names of Raechel and Jacqueline Houck of California. The two young women died in a 2004 California car accident involving a recalled Enterprise rental car. A month before Enterprise Rent-a-Car rented a PT Cruiser to Raechel, 24, and her sister Jacqueline, 20, the rental agency was informed of a serious safety defect — power steering fluid could leak and ignite under the hood. Because Enterprise failed to remove the vehicle from its fleet of rental cars, the two sisters later died in a fiery crash.

As San Diego product liability lawyers, we are hopeful that Congress will also enact legislation to promote used car safety. While existing law requires new car dealers to repair vehicles with existing recalls prior to sale, the same rules do not apply to previously owned vehicles. As we have discussed on this blog, several used auto dealers, such as CarMax, have come under scrutiny for selling recalled vehicles to unsuspecting consumers. A measure that would have prohibited used-car dealers from selling vehicles with unrepaired recalls was proposed as part of the FAST Act; however, it was not included in the final law.

If you or someone you care about has suffered serious harm due to a defective vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation. For more information, please contact a San Diego product liability attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.